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The Wise Little Hen

A Silly Symphony

Release Date : June 9, 1934

Running Time : 7:40

Synopsis

A retelling of the old story with Donald Duck and Peter Pig unwilling to help the Wise Little Hen with her crops.

Characters

Wise Little Hen
Peter Pig
Donald Duck

Credits

Director
Wilfred Jackson
Animation
Ben Sharpsteen
Archie Robin
Ugo D'Orsi
Wolfgang Reitherman
Gerry "Clyde" Geronomi
Art Babbitt
Louie Schmitt
Frenchy de Tremaudan
Dick Heumer
Music
Leigh Harline
Voices
Florence Gill
Clarence "Ducky" Nash

Milestones

The debut of Donald Duck. His trademark sailor suit, which he would wear throughout his career (save for a brief stint in the Army) is unmistakable.

Video

United States
Cartoon Classics : First Series : Volume 9 : Donald Duck's First Fifty Years
Germany
Micky und Company
France
Silly Symphonies Volume 2
Mickey et Compagnie
Italy
Silly Symphonies Volume 1

Laserdiscs

Japan
Mickey and Company
Donald Duck : A Star is Born

DVD

United States
Disney Treasures : Wave 3 : The Chronological Donald Volume 1
Walt Disney Animation Collection : Volume 5 : The Wind in the Willows
Timeless Tales Volume 3
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Germany
Disney Treasures : Wave 3 : The Chronological Donald Volume 1
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
France
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Italy
Disney Treasures : Wave 3 : The Chronological Donald Volume 1
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Sweden
Disney Treasures : Wave 3 : The Chronological Donald Volume 1
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
United Kingdom
Disney Treasures : Wave 3 : The Chronological Donald Volume 1
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies

Television

The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 14: Early Donald
The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 4: Disney Firsts
The Mickey Mouse Club : October 6, 1955
The Mickey Mouse Club : March 25, 1958

Technical Specification

Color Type: Technicolor
Animation Type: Standard animation
Sound Mix: Mono
Aspect Ratio: 1.37 : 1
Negative Format: 35mm
Print Format: 35mm
Cinematographic Process: Spherical
Original Language: English

Released by United Artists Pictures

Comments

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : Once again we’ve reached one of the landmark shorts in Disney history. This time, it’s the first appearance of the final member of the Fab Five – Donald Duck. With this appearance in The Wise Little Hen, Donald joins the pantheon of Disney stars, and our Fab Five of Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy and Donald is complete.

It would be a while longer before Goofy and Donald really moved into Mickey’s world as his supporting cast, but Donald’s appearance here is striking for a few reasons. Compared to the other characters who appeared after Steamboat Willie (Goofy and Pluto), Donald appears in a fully finished form. He would evolve his look a bit, but his character, voice and clothing are all the same as we would see them today.

In the story of this short, it’s a familiar parable. The titular hen has a basket full of corn to planet, and approaches her friends Peter Pig and Donald Duck to get their help. Predictably, both beg off, faking a bellyache, so the hen goes out and plants the corn on her own, with her chicks helping out.

When the time comes to harvest the corn, Peter and Donald are together, and again fake a bellyache when the hen comes up to ask if they will help. Their tunes change of course, when the hen has finally harvested everything and cooked up a feast. Corn muffins, corn on the cob, corn chowder and cornbread are all set out on the hen’s table.

She gets the last laugh, though, inviting the boys over for dinner, but giving them a vial of Castor Oil for their tummies instead of food. It’s an old story, but a good one, and one that should be repeated often these days.

The striking thing is how much of a finished product Donald really is. Clarence Nash’s voice is instantly recognizable, and his trademark sailor outfit is there as well. He is the character that we would all know and love. But why did he survive this short and not Peter Pig or the hen?

I think the majority of it has to be Clarence Nash’s voice work. From the second Donald opens his mouth, he is a funny and memorable character. There’s nothing that particularly stands out about his design, although it’s good. But the distinct voice makes Donald an interesting character.

The Wise Little Hen is important for Donald’s appearance, but it’s also a good short. The hen comes across as likeable and funny, and Peter and Donald are also well done. I highly recommend any Disney fan to check this one out and see where one of Disney’s biggest stars got his start.


From David Gerstein at Ramapith : Psst—Peter *did* survive. He's in The Band Concert too, reappeared as Donald's sidekick in late-1930s Italian comics, and has been used in comics every once in a blue moon since.
From Mac : Maybe David's too modest to mention it himself, but now we've got to the 1934 cartoons, I have to recommend his book "Mickey and the Gang" which covers many of the Disney films from 1934 through to 1943 (and then some). The reason I bring this up is that the book gives a real insight into what else Disney was doing with the release of each cartoon. The Wise Little Hen is a great example since the book gives details on the cartoon, samples of the press kit issued to theatres with this cartoon (showing how Disney was already thinking Donald would be a star), examples of the continued career of Peter Pig, the original Donald model sheets, publicity drawings and more!

One of the interesting things about this cartoon (which I learned about from David's book as well as the Silly Symphony Companion) is that an additional scene was animated, but seems to have been cut before it was released. The scene involves Peter and Donald each trying to give the other the castor oil. In fact, in the version we see today you can See Peter thinking of the idea (I always thought he was reflecting on how his behavior had resulted in this consequence). Also Donald's dance, apparently was originally much longer. I wonder if these scenes still exist. If so I'd love to see them included on DVD some day. This is such a landmark cartoon it's be fascinating to see something 'new' from it!


From Jerry Edwards : I enjoy this short just for the adaptation of the old story, in addition to the first appearance of Donald Duck. A mother hen with many chicks needs help in planting and harvesting her corn. When Donald Duck and Peter Pig refuse to help, continually claiming to be ill when they were dancing jigs moments before, the mother hen does the work herself. When all the work is done and corn delicacies cover her table, she invites Donald and Peter to share the contents of a covered bowl he brings out to them. After they fight over the bowl, they discover that the contents is a bottle of castor oil. Donald's appearance is more of that of a goose than a duck, with a long neck and beak - an appearance he keeps in his first few appearances. Supposedly, Walt thought that Peter Pig would be their next big cartoon star, but the audience went crazy over Donald, resulting in this being Peter Pig's only appearance.
From Ryan : This short really wasn't all that great, but it was an important one for it was the very first appearance of Donald Duck. Donald looked different than he does today. His bill was rounded and he was quite smaller. Two things, however, have remained constant about Donald: his incoherent voice and his short temper. One scene that I laughed at was where after the hen gives Donald and Peter Pig a basket with a napkin draped over it (they think it's corn), they open it and see it's medicine. They then take turns kicking each other in the butt. That food on their looked quite good and is bound to make you hungry (there was corn bread, corn chowder, and corn on the cob).
From Warren Harmon : Donald Duck's debut film nearly 70 years ago positioned our charming Mr. Duck as one of the most memorable characters in Disney animation history. Wise Little Hen shows us the original Long Bill Donald, but his temper and sly demeanor hasn't changed throughout all these years. Wise Little Hen succeeds because of that little character we love to hate. There's a little Donald Duck in each of us; that's why so many people relate to his antics and wit.

Through his many short films and outstanding comic book run (thanks to Mr. Barks), Donald Duck remains my favorite of all Disney creations. Happy 69th Donald!


From Niky Thomson : I give it a 10. It's just great and a good moral too!
From Gijs Grob : A simple Silly Symphony carried by a mediocre yet all too memorable song. I guess it might have fallen into oblivion, were it not for Donald Duck.

In his first cartoon Donald Duck is a real sailor, living on a boat and dancing the hornpipe. He's a strong voice character from the start. When he joyfully shouts 'oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!' we all know it's him, even when he looks different. Besides his voice, Donald Duck displays two of his typical character traits: egotism and his tendency to trick others. His short temper is not shown yet: when ultimately foiled by the Hen he's not breaking down in anger, but joins Peter in remorseful self-chastisement. But Donald would show his temper, in his next cartoon: Orphan's Benefit.

Besides Donald Duck this cartoon is interesting for an appetizing and startling realistic animation shot of butter melting on hot corn.


From Jeff Wiener : To be honest, I don't particularly like this short. Like some of the other early color Silly Symphonies from this period, the cartoon contains sappy music that I personally find a bit irritating. However, this Silly Symphony demonstrates the continuing development of classic Disney animation as we know and love it today. It is also historically interesting because it contains the very first screen appearance of Donald Duck. The Disney team probably didn't realize the enormous potential of Donald as a starring character when this cartoon was still on the drawing boards. The violent temper and belligerent behavior that we all find so amusing today really came to the fore when he was teamed up with Mickey Mouse in Orphan's Benefit. Within a year, Donald would eclipse Mickey in popularity and become the Disney studio's top star.
From Baruch Weiss : This is an important short in the history of Disney as it was the first appearance of Donald Duck, his hat would later be worn by one of the 3 little pigs then Tweety Bird wore it too. Great cartoon, the music was nice and the scene with all that corn on the table sure is bound to make anybody go hungry, so I wouldn't recommend watching this short if it's a fast day for you!
From Julie Arsenault : I had never knew that this Silly Symphony was Donald Duck's first theatrical appearance as well as for his voice-artist Clarence "Ducky" Nash too; and besides, I love Donald Duck (along with Mickey and Pluto). I love whenever the Wise Little Hen said:

"Will you help me plant my corn? Will you help me plant my corn?" And Donald and Peter Pig would say "Who? me?! oh no! I've got a belly ache!" (That was great timing). And one last thing, the little chicks are very cute.


From Chris Perdue : To me, this short is great on many levels. It has several good moral lessons, the food looks delicious and Donald Duck is one of my favorite characters. His bad temper is not so evident in this one. But aside from that, he is still our well-known and well-loved Donald Duck. And I love the "sappy music", though that is probably because I love and appreciate many different kinds of music. And also, I love the color Silly Symphonies and this one is among my favorites.
From Maxwell Morton "Max" Goudiss : This is considered to become the only of the few Donald Duck cartoon in which Donald does not lose his temper as Disney decided to stick with the Donald Duck that emerged in his second cartoon, Orphan's Benefit on August 11, 1934.
From Billy Joe : This Silly Symphony has some good animation and an important message. The corn Mother Hen (an early version of Clara Cluck) looked very good at the end of the cartoon. It probably would of been better if Peter Pig and Donald Duck helped.

Speaking of Donald Duck, this cartoon includes his first screen appearance. No joke. This is the start of a career that would dominate Disney's animated short films, comic books, and other things.


From Bryan Hensley : Donald Duck celebrated his platinum (75th) anniversary on June 9th, 2009, with this very short! It's good to see him have a great debut on the big screen and in society later on! Eventually he was said to be the most profiled member of Disney's Fab Five! (Sensational Six if you count his girlfriend Daisy.) This was a huge milestone for Disney! Donald ended up having more theatrical shorts than any other Disney star in history, even topping Mickey in his amount of shorts! I hope you all enjoy Donald Duck's big debut with The Wise Little Hen from 1934! I thought castor oil was for naughty kids in those days, not bellyaches!

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